Miso Butter Salmon (ちゃんちゃん焼き – Chan Chan Yaki )
Like many of the best comfort foods, Chan Chan Yaki was created as an easy delicious meal to feed large numbers of working-class people. In this case, the dish was created to feed fisherfolk from Ishikari, which is known for its salmon. These days it’s a mainstay of festivals where it’s prepared on large steel griddles called teppan, and the name is an onomatopoeia for the sound the metal spatulas make as they hit the grill. I’ve adapted the dish to make it easier to make at home while ensuring you end up with perfectly cooked salmon that practically melts in your mouth.
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Why This Recipe Works?
- The medley of sweet vegetables with the rich salmon and savory miso makes for a balanced one-pan meal that only needs a bowl of rice to be complete.
- Spreading the miso butter onto the salmon not only seasons it, the butter slowly renders out of the miso, basting the salmon as it percolates down into the veggies below.
- The vegetables under the salmon act as a steaming rack, keeping it out of the liquid in the pan while diffusing the heat to allow the salmon to cook gently.
Ingredients for Miso Butter Salmon
- Miso – Miso soup is the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of miso, but it’s a versatile seasoning that’s packed with umami-producing amino acids. While there are dozens of different types of miso, it broadly breaks down into three general categories: white miso, yellow miso, red miso. You can read more about these types of miso in my miso soup post, but it’s worth noting here that yellow miso is often mislabeled as “white miso” outside of Japan. For this recipe, you want to use yellow miso. The miso’s salinity can vary by brand, so you may find you need to adjust the amount of miso butter you put on the salmon.
- Butter – Any unsalted butter will work, but I like using cultured butter. The fermented cream used to make it has a higher diacetyl content, which is what makes butter taste like butter. You need to use unsalted butter because the miso is quite salty. If you start with salted butter, you won’t be able to add as much miso relative to the butter.
- Sugar – In Japanese cuisine, sugar acts as a counterbalance to salt, smoothing out its sharp edges while helping the flavors of the various ingredients meld together. In this dish, the vegetables tend to be pretty sweet, so you could omit the sugar if you want, but you will want to reduce the amount of miso butter as well. It works, but it makes the dish taste “healthy.”
- Vegetables – I used a medley of cabbage, onion, carrots, and enoki, but the options are pretty limitless here. Some other vegetables used in Chan Chan Yaki are corn, shiitake, or shimeji mushrooms, and this is also pretty awesome with potatoes.
- Sake – The sake not only provides the liquid used to steam the vegetables and salmon, but it also adds amino acids, which gives the dish umami. Since alcohol burns off at a lower temperature than water, most of it will evaporate, but if this is a big concern, you could replace the sake with water. It won’t be quite as umami-rich, but it will still taste good.
- Salmon – I recommend using salmon with a good deal of fat on it. You can identify it by the white lines in the salmon or a gradation from darker meat along the thicker part of the fillet to a lighter, more creamy color in the thin parts. If you prefer leaner salmon, it will still work quite well in this recipe as long as you don’t overcook it. I usually check my salmon’s internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer, and I go for a temperature of around 130 degrees F for this dish.
- Garnish – I’ve garnished this miso butter salmon with chopped scallions and black pepper, but these are both optional, and you can use one, neither, or both. Citrus zest, such as Meyer lemon or yuzu, also makes for a nice fragrant garnish.
How to Make Miso Butter
The key to making miso butter is to make sure your butter has had an hour or two to come up to room temperature so that it’s very soft; otherwise, you’re going to need to mash the ingredient together with the back of a fork.
Once the butter is soft enough, add it, along with the miso and sugar, to a bowl and mix the three ingredients together until it’s smooth and uniform in color.
Miso butter can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for several weeks, so you can make a big batch in advance. The only problem is that you need to spread it onto the salmon, so you’ll have to take some of the miso butter out of the fridge in advance to soften it. That being said, other uses such as stir-fries and pasta don’t require it to be softened, so it can still be worth making in advance.
How to How to Make Chan Chan Yaki
Spread the miso butter on the top surface of the salmon filet. Depending on the salt content of your miso, you may not need all of the miso butter.
Heat a pan that’s large enough to hold the vegetables and salmon over medium heat. I recommend using a deeper one such as a “chef’s pan” if you have one. Add the oil and all of the vegetables (except the scallions), and stir-fry until the cabbage has wilted.
Place the salmon on the veggies and then pour the sake on top of the vegetables. Cover this immediately with a lid. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and set a timer for between eight to ten minutes. How long your salmon takes to cook will depend on how thick it is, so if you’re unsure how long it will need, you can use an instant-read thermometer to test it after eight minutes. If you don’t have one, you can also try and cut into the thickest part of the filet with a fork. If it flakes apart easily, it is cooked.
The vegetables under the salmon should be pretty juicy, but if you have an excess of water, you can turn the heat up at this point and boil some of the liquid off.
Garnish the Miso Butter Salmon with chopped scallions and black pepper, and serve with rice.
Other Salmon Recipes
Miso Butter Salmon or Chan Chan Yaki (ちゃんちゃん焼き), is a Japanese dish that originated in the Ishikari region of Hokkaido. It’s an area known for its salmon, and this dish was originally prepared in steel drums to feed large numbers of fisherfolk. Traditionally, it’s made by stir-frying vegetables such as cabbage, onions, and carrots and then placing a salmon filet on top. This is then steamed with a sauce made from miso, sugar, and sake before being finished off with butter.
The traditional method for making Chan Chan Yaki is to stir-fry and steam the vegetables, salmon, and miso on a large steel griddle called a teppan. When the dish is almost done, the cook uses two metal spatulas to break up the whole fillet and chop up on the vegetables. The sound of the spatulas striking the flat top makes a chan-chan-chan sound, which is where the dish gets its name.
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This method works for other proteins such as chicken or even tofu. The only difference is that the cooking times may vary depending on the thickness and type of protein you use.
For Miso Butter
- 1/4 cup miso (65 grams)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (36 grams, softened)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (10 grams)
For Miso Butter Salmon
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 250 grams cabbage (cut into 2-inch pieces)
- 100 grams onion (cut into thin wedges)
- 100 grams carrots (cut into 1/10-inch thick slices)
- 100 grams enoki (growing medium trimmed off)
- 1/4 cup sake
- 450 grams salmon filet
- Black pepper (to taste)
- 2 scallions (chopped)
- Whisk the miso, butter, and sugar together in a small bowl until it’s uniform in color, and set aside.
- Spread the miso butter onto the top surface of the salmon in an even layer. Depending on the saltiness of your miso, you may not need all of the miso butter.
- Add the vegetable oil to a frying pan and sauté the cabbage, onion, carrots, and enoki until they’re wilted.
Flatten out the vegetables and place the salmon on top of them.
- Pour the sake around the salmon and immediately cover the pan with a lid. Turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and set the timer for 8-10 minutes (the exact time depends on your salmon’s thickness).
- Garnish the Miso Butter Salmon with black pepper and scallions and serve with rice.